Keller Chryst would have you believe he'll treat Big Game week like any other week. The Palo Alto grad and his high school buddies have seen their share of the Bay Area's biggest rivalry game and seemed to have enjoy themselves.
Chryst is Stanford's starting quarterback now and will lead the Cardinal (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) into his first Big Game as a starter. Stanford meets California in Berkeley at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for the right to retain 'The Axe' and perhaps remain on path for a 10-win season.
The Golden Bears (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) are playing for their postseason lives. They must beat Stanford and UCLA just to be considered for a bowl game.
Stanford has won the past six meetings and is looking to finish strong in hopes of attracting a cool bowl bid.
"You can feel it on campus," Chryst said. "You have the horn blowing every hour. People are starting to build up for it."
Cardinal coach David Shaw thinks there's a different feeling to this game as opposed to any other.
"I feel it as a coach," he said. "I'm an alum. I'm a Stanford guy. And Big Game is always Big."
Shaw got a taste of it before he came to Stanford as a player in 1990.
"My dad was coaching here and going to the games through the course of the season and then going to this one, I was 'Oh my gosh, this one is different.' I just felt it," Shaw said "It was louder, there was more energy, more excitement."
His first Big Game as a player was one for the record books. Stanford scored nine points in the final 12 seconds to beat the Bears, 27-25.
"That game is still one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of on any level," Shaw said. "The intrigue, great play-making ... Russell White, Glen Mylburn, Ed McCaffrey, John Hopkins making the kick as time expired after a roughing the passer penalty and after Cal was assessed a penalty for not controlling the crowd, getting the on-side kick, all of that."
Shaw even has a speech ready for all the
"I say this every year, to the freshmen from all over the country and maybe the sophomores who didn't play last year, to not be surprised by the emotion as you walk through the stadium. You're going to feel it," he said. "No, it's not just another game. You could tell going into (Monday) night, seniors in particular, the guys were fired up. This is about the Big Game and the seniors are already talking about it. 'Gotta find a way to keep the Axe, gotta play our best game,' all the things you want to hear your team saying."
Chryst threw for 164 yards in his first two starts combined. He netted 258 yards in Stanford's 52-27 blasting at Oregon last week.
"He's been making incremental improvements the first two games," Shaw said. "It's the execution of the offense. All the positive signs were there in practice. No one wants it more and no one is pushing himself harder than Keller. All he has to do is play his part. He doesn't have to take the game over."
Chryst is now 3-0 as a starter, earning two wins on the road. The offensive line has settled in, allowing only one sack in each of the past two games.
"His confidence has grown and that's something he's earned," Stanford linebacker Joey Alfieri said."He's a guy who's out there after practice every day doing extra stuff, whether it's throwing routes or running gassers."
Chryst prepped across the street from Stanford Stadium at Palo Alto High School, but only attended two Big Games. He did not play in 2014 and watched from the sideline as the Cardinal rolled in Berkeley, 38-17.
"Game experience will help anyone," said Chryst. "You can simulate it in practice as much as you can, but nothing really compares to actual game speeds."
Christian McCaffrey needs 89 yards against Cal to surpass Toby Gerhart for No. 3 on Stanford's career rushing list. Gerhart amassed 3,522.